Developments between UNITE, PCS and Fujitsu

Way back in July, Peter Skyte, our UNITE National Officer, wrote to the company seeking negotiations. The company rejected this approach.
UNITE sent the overwhelming ballot result to the company on Thursday 29th October. Having received no response, UNITE and PCS wrote to the company on Monday 2nd November, offering talks over Jobs, Pay and Pensions. The company then rejected all the proposals and alternatives from the Pensions Forum and started notifying members that they had been selected for redundancy. In this context, and having still received no response from the company, UNITE issued the notice of industrial action on Thursday 5th November.
On 6th November, the company finally responded to Peter Skyte, our UNITE National Officer:

Dear Peter,
I have been asked to respond to the letter you sent to Roger Gilbert on the 2nd November.
The company appreciates that you are willing to discuss ways that industrial action could be prevented and is keen to work with you to explore any mutually acceptable solutions.
I would be happy at some point to meet personally with you to discuss this further, as I agree that this could help in progressing to a satisfactory conclusion for us both.
As a first step, however, I suggest that I and another senior HR colleague meet with Terry Thompson and Ian Allinson in the very near future so that we can understand the concerns being raised by your members and explore the issues in more detail.
I have to tell you, however, that it is the company’s policy not to discuss matters that are in dispute with a trade union that has issued a specific notice of strike action. We would, therefore, require Unite to agree to either withdraw or defer its notice issued on 5th November 2009 before we have this meeting.
Assuming that this proposal is acceptable to you, I would be happy to make the arrangements for the initial meeting direct with Terry and Ian.
Please confirm how you would like to proceed as soon as possible and if you have any further queries, please feel free to contact me on 07867 828393.
Yours sincerely,
Larry Upton
Employee Relations Manager
It is very welcome that the company was for the first time saying it is willing to talk, but the letter had two key weaknesses. Firstly, the company demanded that UNITE withdraw the notice of action before talks could take place, while the company did not offer to withdraw the threat of ending pensions consultation this week or the threat that members will be made redundant without notice on 11th December. Secondly, the company’s attempt to choose our negotiating team (can we choose theirs?) could suggest that the talks would only cover staff in the Manchester bargaining unit, when the vast majority of our members are elsewhere.
UNITE members in Manchester discussed Larry Upton’s letter at their Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) on Friday, and took the unanimous view that they would not take part in talks that divide Manchester from the rest of the country. This is a national campaign, we have had a national ballot and we will settle it nationally.
Larry’s letter was discussed by our elected national Combine Committee, which took the view that we should welcome the company’s willingness to talk, that we should be prepared to enter national negotiations at any time and without preconditions, but that we would only lift the notice of industrial action if the company relaxes the impending deadlines threatening the jobs and pensions of our members and enters national negotiations.
Ella Bennett wrote to Peter Skyte later on Friday:

Dear Peter,
Following our conversation earlier today I thought that it would be helpful to reiterate in more detail some of the points that I was making.
I understand Unite’s concern about job losses; we are equally disappointed that the proposed dismissals are necessary. We do however have to take urgent action to protect the business in the long-term and thereby protect the jobs of the vast majority of our employees.
We originally proposed 1200 redundancies across the company but hard work by union and other employee representatives and managers in the Consultative Forums has meant that the total number identified is now under 1000. Of these, around 60% are volunteers who wish to leave and we still have time to explore redeployment options for the remainder.
We are continuing to work to increase the number of volunteers, thereby leading to fewer compulsory redundancies, and we would welcome Unite’s reps continued involvement in the consultation process in order to reduce still further the number of your members selected for redundancy.
In addition, as you know, we have proposed a postponement of any closure of the ICL DB pension plan to future accrual – something which I am sure you will welcome.
For these reasons I believe that in terms of general aspirations and, indeed, practical outcomes, our positions are not far apart. I am sure that early discussions involving relevant management and union representatives, without the threat of imminent strike action, have every chance of leading to an end of this dispute.
In particular, I think there is value in our respective organisations specifically discussing the pension consultation process and whether the timescales could be extended and how we could work together to find ways of mitigating any compulsory redundancies within the employee population represented by Unite.
My management colleagues are ready to start these discussions early next week so I hope for an early, positive response.
Yours sincerely
Ella Bennett
HR Director
Fujitsu UK and Ireland

It is clear that the ballot result and notice of action has at last got the company’s attention, but the company needs to provide substance, not just warm words, in order to reach a sensible settlement.
In line with the decision of our Combine Committee, Peter Skyte responded to the company this morning as follows:

Dear Ella,
I refer to the letter from Larry Upton on 6 November and your further letter of 6 November following our telephone conversation, although it is disappointing that the company did not respond to us until a week after we notified you of our ballot result, and after we had served notice of industrial action.
We welcome your suggestion of early discussions involving relevant management and union representatives, with the aim of resolving this dispute, and Unite is willing to meet the company without any preconditions. However since we notified Fujitsu Services of the ballot result, the company has rejected proposals from the pensions forum, and begun notifying hundreds of employees of selection for compulsory redundancy. To add insult to injury, I understand that some of the employees receiving such letters have had to pay postage on these as the postage was underpaid, and you must recognise that this has further added to the anger felt by those on the receiving end.
We fully understand the company’s preference that talks should take place without the threat of imminent strike action, just as we would prefer that talks should take place without the imminent threat of dismissal through compulsory redundancy without notice on 11th December.
Our members would much prefer not have to take industrial action in order to achieve a resolution of the vitally important issues they face in relation to jobs, pay and pensions.
We do not believe it is reasonable for the company to expect Unite to withdraw notice of industrial action before talks can begin, while the company still proposes to end pensions’ consultation this week and to dismiss employees through the redundancy programme.
We are ready to meet the company to seek a resolution, without any preconditions. However If the company is not prepared to do this, we would be prepared to withdraw the notice of action to allow national discussions to take place, provided that the company reciprocates by guaranteeing that it would neither implement compulsory redundancies nor end pensions’ consultation until at least the end of January 2010.
Yours sincerely,
Peter Skyte
National Officer

Peter has specifically offered talks with the company on Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday. This was the position at the time this newsletter was drafted.
Meanwhile, the company has also been busy with its “divide and rule” tactics.
On 5th November, Ella Bennett wrote to PCS, offering negotiations on several of the issues in dispute. PCS will be holding talks with the company on Tuesday (10th November), but have advised that “if these talks do not bring clear proposals for a settlement then we will ask our members to commence a work to rule from 20 November and take strike action on Friday 20 and Monday 23 November”.
The company’s approach to PCS, along with their move to delay closure of the ICL DB pension plan by a year, shows that the company is seriously worried about the threat of industrial action.
It is disappointing that PCS did not give notice to start their industrial action at the same time as UNITE, but we should keep this in perspective. UNITE’s membership in Fujitsu is about twice that of PCS, and more than three times as many UNITE members voted to strike than PCS members.
This week we will find out whether Fujitsu is prepared to take serious steps to avoid industrial action, or whether talks are just the time-wasting we have seen from Fujitsu so often before.
UNITE members can be sure of one thing. UNITE will not fall for Fujitsu’s “divide and rule” tactics or allow the company to drag things out until members lose their jobs and pensions without the chance to put up a fight.

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Unite members working for Fujitsu Services Limited in the Manchester bargaining unit have taken 32 strike days over compulsory redundancies, victimisation of reps and breaches of agreements. This follows 27 previous days of strike action.

Industrial action is currently suspended but the fight continues.

Further information is available here including a downloadable appeal for support leaflet and how to donate to our strike fund.

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